________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 21 . . . . June 20, 2003

cover My First Canadian Words: A My World Board Book.

Chez Picthall. Photography by Steve Gorton and Andy Crawford.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2003.
32 pp., board, $9.99.
ISBN 0-439-97411-9 (English), ISBN 0-439-97412-7 (French).

Subject Headings:
Vocabulary-Juvenile literature.
Toy and movable books.

Preschool / Ages 1-3.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

***1/2 /4

internal art

Via 16 double page spreads containing photographs of labeled animals, people and real objects placed against a variety of solid color backgrounds, youngsters encounter 15 word groupings which are connected to their immediate surroundings before the images take them further afield. The opening pair of pages presents the numbers from one to ten with the appropriate quantities of vegetables or fruits being used to illustrate each number. Eleven colour rectangles occupy the next two pages while 10 two dimensional shapes come next. “My body” follows with closeup photos focusing on specific body parts, such as teeth, nose and tummy. Oddly, while knees and toes are identified, elbows and fingers are not. Not surprisingly, the gender distinguishing body parts are omitted. With what to cover the body is the focus of “My clothes.” Children are then taken on a tour of their domicile via the next two sets of pages with “In my home” stressing furniture and appliances and “In the kitchen” more appliances and cooking utensils. Flowing naturally from the kitchen are the two pages of “What I eat and drink.” The next pair of pages presents “Playtime toys.” Recognition of some of the “Bath time” objects, such as bubble bath and shampoo, will be difficult because of the need to present them in generic, not commercial product, containers. “Bedtime” portrays the furniture and items connected with sleep. The book then moves out of the home and into the wider community with “On the move” showing a variety of vehicles, most of them land based. Why a commercial speedboat was used to illustrate water travel as opposed to more common water vessels, such as rowboats, sailboats or even an ocean liner, is puzzling. “At the beach” does not show a beach, but just the things a child might wear or play with at that locale. “On the farm” illustrates typical animals found there plus a tractor and a combine. “Wild animals” illustrates 10 generally exotic creatures that children would most likely encounter in a zoo. The final pair of facing pages is a matching game in which the child is asked to find nine matching pairs of photographs.

     In the main, My First Canadian Words is a fine board book which merits being purchased by parents with very young children and by those libraries and day care facilities which serve the book’s target audience. Consequently, any critical comments which have appeared previously in this review or which follow should be read more as quibbles than substantial criticisms. As a reviewer, my biggest question is, however, “Why does this book have the word ‘Canadian’ in its title when all of the information on the copyright page suggests the book’s origins to be in the United Kingdom?” Yes, the book has been republished by a Canadian publisher, but where is the Canadian content? Among the 10 wild animals, there can be found a Canadian polar bear and a snake which could be construed as garter snake. Where are brown bears, beavers, deer and moose? Though the book’s producers tried to be careful in selecting generic vehicles for the “On the move section,” the airliner is clearly labeled “British Airways” and the ambulance and train are unlike any seen in Canada. Although the “My clothes” section has a tuque [toque?] and gloves, where are the Canadian parkas, snowsuits and mittens? As well, Canadian children will not readily identify with the single stick popsicle portrayed in “At the beach.”

Highly Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children’s and YA literature at the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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